Medicine has come a long way from leeching.
The United States has accomplished many great things as a country, and, as of today, we have yet another accolade to insert into our resumé, this time in the form a major medical breakthrough: the first successful penis transplant. (Not to be confused, of course, with penis implants, which has been a thriving industry for some time now, as our very own Amy Wallace discovered when she went to talk with the Beverly Hills urologist/phallus whisperer profiting off that demand.)
According to the NY Times, Thomas Manning, 64, had a penectomy (a partial or full amputation of the penis) when he was discovered to have potentially fatal penile cancer, leaving him with an inch-long “stump”. But now, thanks to a deceased donor with matching skin tone and blood type, Manning has received a new penis, and doctors are “cautiously optimistic” that he will regain sexual function in a few months. There have been two known penis transplants before, but neither occurred in the United States. The first occurred in China in 2006 and did not turn out successfully (the man asked to have it removed because of a “severe psychological problem” after receiving it); the second, in South Africa in 2014, went so well that the man went on to father a child. Only time will tell if Manning’s transplant will be similarly fruitful.
And yes, a penis transplant does sound like something The Onion might report on, especially when you consider one of the leaders both on Manning’s surgery and in the hospital’s urology department is named Dr. Dicken Ko. But they have been of increasing concern in the medical world, given that from 2001 to 2013, 1367 soldiers have suffered injuries to their genital region. In addition to the obvious, the physical toll, the emotional and psychological trauma is unfathomable: young men who are the most socially and culturally “masculine” among us. It puts them at greater risk for suicide, a likelihood that, among veterans, is already tragically high. Right now, with the exception of one veteran who is awaiting a donor at Johns Hopkins, most of the procedures are being performed on non-military civilians (cancer survivors and those involved in accidents), since the procedure (which can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000) is still being perfected and the Department of Defense does not like soldiers to be “guinea pigs” for new or experimental procedures.
Mr. Manning’s recovery has not been without hiccups. The day after the procedure, he “began to hemorrhage,” which: JESUS! FUCK, MAN! But the doctors were able to get his recovery back on track, and if his surgery does prove to be ultimately successful (meaning the body accepts it, allowing him a rich blood supply, normal urination, and sexual function) then it is an important step in giving some hope both to noncombatants who undergo a penectomy and to the wounded warriors who have already had to sacrifice so much. That’s no laughing matter.
MORE STORIES LIKE THIS ONE